A buswoman’s holiday

What I often end up doing, on my days off paperwork or teaching, is housework. Sadly, it’s the thing that is at the bottom of a my chosen-occupations list.

At the top of my favourite list, the one titled, What I Would Buy if I Won the Lottery, is, ‘hire a house-keeper’. I have in mind a Mary Poppins type character, but I’d settle for a Mrs Danvers, just so long as I never again had my attention caught by the state of the kitchen floor. As I don’t even do the lottery this is clearly fantasy. I’ve more hope of teaching Rusty how to wipe his feet before he bounds in.

Which reminds me, an old but useful tip, regarding missing homework (school or domestic) is, blame the dog. It got me past many a potential detention in my delinquent school-days.

Yes, it is an ancient cliche, but here’s the thing, while I don’t believe anyone has actually, ever, believed it, it tends to raise a smile. It’s a cold soul that hands out a heavy punishment when they’re appreciating your wit. On the other hand, if I could step back in time with some good advice to my younger self, I’d tell her to make the effort, and just do her homework.

Now I’m an adult, of course, I’ve reversed my aversion to lessons to the extent that on Saturday, I used one of my precious free-days to sign up for a day-school: ‘Free Verse – or playing tennis without a net?’ with the Clevedon Adult Study Association (CASA).

Who cares about that kitchen floor, anyway? (Actually, as a seasoned multi-tasker, I’m fitting it in between paragraphs as I write this.)

‘Really?’ said my niece, Cecily, when I told her what I had planned for the weekend. ‘Isn’t that what you teach, though?’ I was giving her a lift home from her part-time job in a shoe-shop, where she had, she’d told me, spent four hours measuring feet. ‘So boring, but it’s good having money of my own.’

‘I teach stories,’ I said, ‘this is about a particular style of poems. I get to relax, learn, and let someone else keep watch on the clock, and work out what comes next.’

‘Okay,’ said Cecily. ‘It’s not what I’d want to do.’

Cecily, choosing subjects for A-levels, had dropped literature, like a hot potato. When I told her it was the only school subject that had kept my attention she said, ‘Maybe they taught it differently, then.’

I was reminded of her supposition as we reached the end of our time ‘unpacking’ poems, on Saturday. Poet, Phillip Lyons, our guide through the labyrinths of alliterations, consonance, cadence, metaphors, similes, enjambments etc… was winding up our day with some reflection. ‘What,’ he wondered, ‘were our individual responses to free-verse poetry? What thoughts would we take away with us?’

‘I wish someone had taught us poetry in this way at school,’ Paula said. There were murmured agreements from around the room.

‘How did they make it so boring?’ Tim said.

‘On behalf of all retired English teachers,’ Sheila said, ‘I apologise. We did our best.’

‘My teacher was amazing,’ said Pauline. ‘Inspiring.’

My teachers, too, I thought. There’d been two for me. Had I been particularly lucky? Maybe. English-classes were an oasis in the desert that was my secondary school. It’s so much easier to share an interest than to instill an interest where none exists in the first place – ask any of my maths teachers…

There are times when I can’t avoid seeing how lucky I am. Saturday was one of them.

What had I got? Introductions to some poems I might not have found on my own; a chance to discuss them, in detail, with people who were as curious about them as I was; added insights from someone who looked at them with a poet’s eye, and an opportunity to share his enthusiasm for his subject.

21 thoughts on “A buswoman’s holiday

  1. It’s always a pleasure to talk about writing with like-minded people and to be introduced to something new πŸ™‚
    I loved writing stories and English Language at school but I disliked the analysis of English Lit. I can’t blame my teachers, it’s just the way I was then. I feel differently now, but maybe taking up creative writing again about 15 years ago made all the difference to the appreciation of other people’s craft.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was a truly delightful day, Chris.

      I have a lot of empathy for my teachers, now. It must have taken a powerful drive to go into class-rooms full of teenage students who mostly had other places to be, and engage them, let alone enthuse them.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I always enjoyed reading, but sadly, my English teacher didn’t inspire. So as for literature, I preferred bloody fiction, other worlds or heartwarming romance to Edgar Poe and the like. Well, there was a collection of Shakespearean sonnets I enjoyed, so that should’ve counted?
    As for the floor and winning the lottery? I’d get two people to help clean, and a third to look after the kids. Maybe someone to type my thoughts too?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think your school experience demonstrates half the problem with the syllabus. It’s not flexible enough. Classes shouldn’t be all about the teacher having to inspire, if children are offered the right books, they’ll come in with an interest. Ignite that interest and they’ll probably work their way towards some of the difficult authors, eventually. I don’t think I’d have found Edgar Allan Poe inspiring, either.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great blog, Cath. I’d loved to have joined in. I plan to run a similar workshop near the end of January but not as intense because lyrical prose will be included. I haven’t attended one workshop this year and it was one of my goals. In school, I had a terrible time memorising the poems! I managed for the duration of the lessons then they were forgotten. It’s the same with songs..Thanks for reminding me of the joy of poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you on housework, Cath. Someday, I’m going to hire a full cleaning staff (probably only for one day) to polish this place up. My spider webs are so long they have spider webs. And interesting segue into poetry. My love of poetry didn’t start until college we were free to pick the poem we wanted to analyze and our impressions were allowed to be more subjective. I had the same experience with reading (until I was about 15) – it was boring until I got to choose my own book – The Hobbit. I’ve been a reader ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love those one-day seminars or writing workshops. One always picks up something. I loved English Literature in school but math was a struggle. I often wished I could be a professional student but bills needed to be paid.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cath that was one day school I was very sad to have to miss – I am glad you enjoyed it so much. Phil is a really great tutor and in the past has inspired me to try writing poetry. Its hard ☺. ( My efforts were so bad no self respecting dog would even sniff at them let alone eat them.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • You did miss a lovely day, Mike.
      I’m never convinced that we are the best judges of our own writing, and much as I love Rusty, and respect his intelligence in many ways, I’m certain that he’s unable to appreciate the quality of any writing, even the blurb on his bag of food! So I’d say, keep writing. πŸ™‚


  7. I combine my limited housework time with listening to a play – the radio is ideal for other tasks (or downloads/ podcasts) and I can’t sit still and listen. Still feels like an indulgence though. It was a shock to me when the creative writing stopped at school. Took me ages to get started again. Everything that helps in that direction is a bonus and I am glad you found something you enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I do think a school’s choice in how it teaches literature can make or break a student’s love of stories. As much as I love music, I dropped it in college because it just didn’t fit with where I was going. Sometimes we just have to rediscover the love of something, be it music or stories, our own way. πŸ™‚ xxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

      • Aw, shucks. πŸ™‚ It helps I’m often picking narrative music–the kind of music that tells a story, you know? There are so many more voices at play, characters and rising action and all that, as opposed to the “typical” concerto. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

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